Headless Sally

Ghost Hunting amid the Echoes of Tragedy and Carnage at Saylor’s Creek

Midnight came and went across the woods and fields of a 118-year old Civil War battlefield. With a firm grip on powerful flashlights turned off, we crept along the edge of the bridge and peered downstream into the darkness for ghosts. Well, for a specific ghost in particular, a ghost named Headless Sally. The three of us stood there in the dark feeling stupid and scared all at once. It was cold, too, down there in the damp mini-valley of Saylor’s Creek. A full moon hung in the sky casting shadows through trees and thickets leafless in Winter.

Earlier during the day we had agreed to hunt for Headless Sally under a full moon in a relatively clear and calm night sky. Luna draws out the madness in people, draws out mindless ghosts questing about on soulless autopilot, the objects of long-faded desires lost to spiritual dementia. And here we were, three Witches of Silverwood, leaning over the bridge railing facing downstream looking for the ghost of a floating head or perhaps her headless torso. We were confident of our abilities to protect ourselves against harmful or mischievous spirit entities. Besides, we figured after midnight on a cold weeknight there would be far less traffic on a lonely country road to disturb our focus than earlier in the day or on a weekend.

We have visited with ghosts nearby at the Hillsman Farmhouse at the epicenter of the Battle of Saylor’s Creek. Fought on Thursday 6 April 1865, as heavy rains fell and the creek rose, the fields, woods, creeks, and farms were the scene of a ferocious and savage three-part battle between Confederates and Federals. American Civil War combat was often at close quarters with severe injuries from up-close discharges of firearms and artillery as well as hand-to-hand fighting.

The Hillsman home was occupied by the Federals and used as a battlefield hospital. The family and servants there were forced downstairs into the basement, but afterwards helped dig mass graves for the dead. I don’t know if the “servants” were Black slaves, lowly-paid Whites, or White indentured servants. Indentured servants as an institution, shockingly enough, endured in the U.S.A. until 1917, long after slavery itself was legally abolished. Few narratives from Civil War battles more than mentioned the presence of slaves as if they were a bothersome afterthought.

The medical staff operated on screaming Union and Confederate wounded without question. Stories were told of so many amputations deemed necessary as the gory battle unfolded, the pile of severed limbs and body parts tossed out the windows reached up to the windowsills. Soft lead Minié ball bullets tore large holes through soft tissue and shattered bones. Cannons firing loaded canisters bursting with lead and iron balls packed in sawdust mowed down troops on both sides.

Sanitation was unknown, and this lack of hygiene helped generate severe rates of infections such as gangrene. Doctors and nurses, including surgeons, may care for their patients and feel passionate for their professions, yes. Their knowledge and technologies, unfortunately, were surprisingly Medieval during what many historians consider the first Modern, Industrial Age war. No wonder so many ghosts haunted the area. Sally, however, didn’t die in the war.

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Sleeping with Ghosts on the Appalachian Trail

Ruminations, Romance, and the Lives of a Family Long Dead

Story and Photographs by William Dudley Bass

Ruins of the old Sarver Homestead along the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, May 1991.

Ruins of the old Sarver Homestead along the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, May 1991.

In late May 1991, almost three months into our odyssey along the Appalachian Trail, my wife and I planned to sleep among ghosts. Old-timey Virginia ghosts. It seemed like a fitting thing to do while walking across our home state, a journey as rich with rumination as it was with hardship and joy.

Gwen and I had embarked on the first day of spring from the top of Springer Mountain in northern Georgia to backpack the whole Appalachian Trail end to end. The AT, as we hikers called it, or simply “the Trail,” stretches more than 2,000 miles northwards across 14 states to the summit of mile-high Mt. Katahdin in north-central Maine. Almost a quarter of the Trail passes through the Old Dominion, making Virginia home to the longest section of the AT, more than any other state. Gwen and I took six-and-a-half months to backpack the whole Trail, climbing Katahdin in early October on the day after our third wedding anniversary.

Rich in both history and wildlife, the Appalachian Trail is an intersection of people and wilderness. Those who backpack end-to-end in one push are known as “thruhikers,” while those who attempt to complete the whole thing in stages are called “section hikers.” Most take on trail names. Gwen and I were thruhikers, as such a distinct minority among the day hikers, weekenders, and picnickers. We called ourselves the Pregnant Rhinos.

Our trail name arose from a backpacking trip out West the previous year, when we got teased about the huge new internal-frame expedition packs bulging from our backs. “Damn, y’all look like a coupla pregnant rhinoceroses,” exclaimed a teenage boy, his own rickety, external-frame pack jangling with pots and pans and sloppy blankets.

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The Lost Creek Monster

Did a Sasquatch tear up the woods between two Virginia farms?

The mystery of this strange event has never been solved. Recent scientific discoveries and claims, however, may provide the inquisitive with clues.

It’s springtime in Virginia. The year is either 1967 or 1968, and possibly as late as 1972. My memory of time and dates from long-ago events are a little hazy these days. Not the incidents and sequences of events, however long ago they occurred. These events are crystal clear in the “documentary film” of my memories.

A giant and mysterious beast went berserk in the woods shared by two intermarried family farms. The destruction was extensive and required immediate repair. We farmers kept our herds of cows and heifers separate to prevent them from getting all mixed up. Both farms had planned to turn loose their herds into adjacent fields separated by the fences along Lost Creek. Compounding the mystery was odd feeling the destruction appeared to be far more playful than malicious. Or perhaps it was a warning?

Maybe there was more than one entity. Perhaps a small family of these unknown monsters was responsible for the bizarre rampage. At the time people, adults as well as us kids, thought a tornado was the most likely culprit even if a tornado made no sense at all as there were no storms. So we imagined a giant, troll-like creature and named it the Lost Creek Monster. We certainly hoped if there really was such a beast there was only one at most. Feeling a bit superstitious, we nonetheless prayed the monster would leave us alone. Especially if it was the Devil. But we were just as afraid of God.

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Doppelganger Among the Cows

Once I saw a doppelganger, although I wasn’t aware of it until the next day. This mysterious event still baffles my mind. Strange and still unresolved questions were raised for which “hoax” would be the easiest yet least likely answer. There are questions regarding the possibility for the bilocation of matter, especially biological organisms, at high levels of material cohesion. Can a person split themselves at will or unconsciously? Other questions provoke inquiries into the evidence consciousness extends beyond our living bodyminds as well as continues, at least for a while, after death. One may speculate as well upon the spiritual ramifications of doppelgangers.

I was not the only witness that warm, sunny afternoon. First, however, what is a doppelganger? Yeah, what the heck is that? And is it dangerous? There’s no way this was a hoax. Well, a hoax is highly unlikely. I’ll explain why further down in this article.

Doppelgangers have existed in myths and legends since Ancient Times. I’d never given the phenomena much attention or credibility prior to this event. Yet my wife and I and others witnessed a doppelganger. Later that afternoon, one man even worked unknowingly alongside this doppelganger. When the man discovered he had done so, he freaked out and prayed feverishly to God so he wouldn’t be snatched up by the Devil and flung down into the fires and stench of Hell.

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Call of the Divine down by the Clothesline

Our culture is riven with wounds. The linguistic tapestries woven from many of our stories arise from psychological, emotional, social, and physical trauma. Ken Woodley, a man who once attended the same small, all-male college as I did went on to advocate for deep racial and social healing between Blacks and Whites in Virginia and across America. From his position as Editor of The Farmville Herald, the local newspaper in Prince Edward County where he still works, he once stated, “We are not responsible for a lot of the wounds we find, but we can be responsible for the healing.”

Healing of such magnitude begins with awareness and presence. Healing of any kind demands such presence. Awareness begins with waking up. Dreams aren’t any good unless you wake up to take action to make your dreams come true.

I remember when I first woke up.

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Goat-Headed Devil in a Black Tuxedo

Ancient image of Cernunnos on the silver Gundestrop Cauldron created by Celtic craftsmen during the European Iron Age. Photo from Wikipedia Commons.

Ancient image of Cernunnos on the silver Gundestrop Cauldron created by Celtic craftsmen during the European Iron Age. Photo from Wikipedia Commons.

A Modern image of the Horned God of the Wiccans dispayed in the Museum of Witchcraft in Cornwall, the UK. Photo from Wikipedia Commons.

A Modern image of the Horned God of the Wiccans dispayed in the Museum of Witchcraft in Cornwall, the UK. Photo from Wikipedia Commons.

 

What transpired is true and cannot be proven.

Once upon a time in the deep dark of night my first wife Margaret and I walked in the door of our home and saw a goat-headed devil sitting in the chair watching us with his legs crossed and his hands in his lap. Scared the bejesus out of us, too. We didn’t know what in Hell this creature was other than it was male. He certainly challenged our religious, psycho-spiritual, and cultural upbringing.

Thick, smoky fog oozed through the woods and draped the open fields. Down the hill beyond the bluffs snaked Big and Little Sandy Rivers. It wasn’t too cold, but the damp chill made the fog drip with hypothermia. Margaret and I arrived home close to midnight. We’d been out at a gathering celebrating Goddess and God with the other Witches of Silverwood Circle. Our group was a Neo-Pagan Celtic Wiccan coven in Prince Edward County, Virginia.

My wife, well, she was my first wife, was the Inner Flamenca or High Priestess of Silverwood. Our close friend, Paul, was the Inner Flamen or High Priest. We preferred “Inner” instead of  “High” to promote ideas of going deep into the mysteries rather than someone being superior above others. The terms “flamen” and “flamenca” derived from Latin words for Roman priests and priestesses responsible for the sacred flames of Gods and Goddesses. They’re not as common in Wiccan usage these days, but some Celtic Wiccans preferred the Roman words to distinguish themselves from Neo-Celtic Druids.

The closer we approached our home the colder and clammier everything seemed. We felt open psychically, perhaps too much so, for we had relatively little training in the arts of psychic and spiritual self-defense. We were beginning to encounter spiritual entities for which we were unprepared to meet.

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Ghosts and Hauntings at the Old Bass Family Farmhouse

 

Old Bass Family Farmhouse on a visit to Virginia from Seattle, December 2005. Foto by William Bass.

Old Bass Family Farmhouse on a visit to Virginia from Seattle, December 2005. Foto by William Bass.

A ghost, yes, an invisible ghost, scared me nearly all to pieces once upon a time back when I was a little kid. I was young, so you can laugh if you wanna, but I was well read and smart, too for being such a squirt. The way that ol’ ghost stomped down the hallway of an old farmhouse in my direction freaked me out. Made my big Frankenstein hearing aid SCREAM. I could hear this ghost, too. I could feel it, feel both the vibrations of the stomps and the cold blob of air moving along with it.

I was a young boy back in the mid-to-late1960s sometime. I don’t remember how many years old I was or what grade I attended in school. What I do recall, however, was the weather. It was Summertime. Lush, green Summertime! It must’ve been between grades. I reckon I was in late elementary school or maybe even early middle. Not sure. But it was Summer that I know. And a ghost scared the bedoobus outa my insides. This true story began late one afternoon.

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Blood is Messy

Some kids dress up as superheroes and monsters from Outer Space. I dreamed of being a serial killer. And as Richmond sat surrounded by Civil War battlefields, there were many grownups that dressed up in butternut and gray to play war among trashy shopping malls and picnic tables. Ever notice they’d rather shoulder rifle-muskets and fire cannons than play at being saw-wielding surgeons surrounded by piles of amputated mannequin limbs?

Me? Well, I was different. I am a serial killer. But, I ask, who killed and maimed more people? Soldiers, of course. I was far more selective. Yes, indeed, I am a serial killer. Yea, I imagined I lived in a comic book and was born for death.

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Willy Ain’t Got No Brains

Lookit that damn fool Willy standin’ there under the giant ass end of General Robert E. Lee’s monstrous horse waving the axed-off head of a rooster up in the air for all the world to see. Scaring all of Richmond, Virginia down into the James River and out to sea. Folks driving down Monument Avenue jump up outa their seats, point like little kids, and almost wreck their cars going the wrong way down North Allen. By the time they popped outa their trance they laid on the horn and shout everything but hymns. Willy didn’t care one wit. He’d already seen the beginning of civilization and the end of the world. And so he scattered droplets of blood everywhere while dancing 65-70 some feet below the end of a bronze horse.

Red against the pale granite of the monument base was a large, square cloth. It was half as big as a picnic table and more crimson than a pool of fresh slaughterhouse blood in sunlight. Rocks held down the corners and the sides, rough chunks of granite and quartz dug out of red Virginia clay. Crushed slices of silvery-glass mica and yellow fool’s gold lay scattered across the square of the cloth. In the center, bound up in orange red twine, was a headless rooster with his chest cut open. Off to the side was a fifth of whiskey. Good whiskey, too. Not great liquor, but souvenir spirits. A black and tan bottle of 1964 George Dickle Tennessee Whisky strapped with a worn leather choker. With a file-sharpened felling axe layin’ right up next to it. There was, however, not a candle in sight.

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The Devil in Uncle Watt

Uncle Watt bit off the head of a big, fat, juicy green tobacco worm, peed on his deaf cousin, and poked mules in the ass with a sharp stick just to see ‘em kick. Oh, yes, he was full of the Devil. Yes, he was! So people said, and thus my efforts to untangle dead ancestors one from the other to find the truth lured me down into a genealogical exorcism.

“Oh my Lord, he done got the Devil in ‘im BAD,” Raffie, an ancient-looking man who said he used to work beside Uncle Watt on the farm once told me back when I was a young lad. “Yeah, Lord, I’m tellin’ ya, it’s BAD!” As late as July 2009, Helen, one of my beloved aunts and a Beatnik artist in her 80s, when reminded of Uncle Watt called him “quite a character.” And so I tumbled down the dumbwaiter chute of a family mystery. Who was this “Devil?”

My Dad told me stories. Raffie told me stories. Uncle Willy told me stories. Even Uncle Aumon who got peed on told me stories. Willy and Aumon were brothers, and as they were also my Dad’s uncles they were really my paternal great-uncles. All of them would shake their heads with bemused dismay and chuckle. They could laugh simply because Uncle Watt was dead. He died young and wasn’t around anymore to torment anyone with all his foolishness. I never got to meet him. Dad said, “Uncle Watt died before you were born, Son, long before you were born.” He didn’t remember what of, tho.

“You don’t remember what he died of?” I asked all eaten up bug-eyed in impatient dismay.

“No, I don’t recall anything,” Dad replied. “Wait. Something about his toe. His big toe, maybe? Hell, I don’t know. Can’t help ya there. Got work to do now. Don’t you?”

Turns out Uncle Watt died long before my Daddy was born, too, as in a little over two decades before Dad’s birth. The strangeness about Watt Bass includes those who told all those crazy wild tales about him spoke as if they were there running alongside him in the same window of time. Whenever I asked way back then how long ago did those events happen not one person seemed to know. Asking a few questions turned into an unexpected adventure in genealogy as I dove into the rabbit hole of fading memories, cryptic notes on faded paper, and incomplete information online.

He was a fun-loving guy who apparently was constantly pushing people’s buttons, telling jokes, and playing pranks like biting off the head of a giant caterpillar to pee all over Uncle Aumon, who was but a laddie-lad, too. He lived life on the wild side. Chased pretty girls but never married. Or so I was told. Which I found out was wrong, wrong, wrong as he certainly did marry. Unless I stumbled upon the tombstone of the wrong Uncle Watt. Turns out I didn’t as the correct tombstone was also the same shared with his now-deceased wife.

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Broken Glass

My Momma always used t’say I was rough on things. And after awhile, my Daddy started saying the same thing. They called me by my middle name, and said, “Dudley, you’re rough on things!” Well, I was a very energetic little boy. Things had a tendency to break around me.

I grew up on a dairy farm in Prince Edward County in South-Central Virginia during the 1960s. I lived in a house built in the middle of what used to be a big pigpen. “Hogs,” they called ’em back then. When pigs got big they called ’em hogs. “Hawgs.” As in “Hawgs!” You could even see the straight line of trees where the old woven wire fence used to run to keep the hogs in the pen. Otherwise it was all green grass, daffodils, shade trees, pansies, irises, and vegetable gardens.

It grossed me out a few years later, though, when I got my hands on a couple of Daddy’s college textbooks on parasitic worms and other nauseating diseases associated with domestic livestock. The books showed the most graphic and horrible pictures, and I found them quite fascinating – until I realized I lived inside of an old pigpen.

My house back then was small. I could run from one end to the other, and often did. The front door opened from a small, cozy front porch into the living room on the almost-east side of the house. That flowed through a big wide walk-through into a dining room, which opened into the kitchen, which opened onto an enclosed back porch where the washing machine was. All the bedrooms, closets, bathroom, and the den were on the sorta-west side of the house. I could run all the way from the front door to the back door and back again. The full length of the house. As hard as I could. Fast!

Drove my Momma crazy. “Dudley,” she would yell, “Stop slamming the front door! Either go out and play or stay inside and be quiet.”

“Yes Ma’am!” I shouted and deciding to stay inside, charged through the house as fast as I could, my little feet drumming across the floors. That drove my Momma crazy, too.

“Dudley!” she scolded again. “Stop running in the house! Go outside and run.”

Oh, boy, but I was having too much fun.

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UFO Encounter in Virginia

Classic flying saucer image from the Rex Heflin Orange County case in Southern California, 3 August 1965, the same general time period the Bass Family encountered a UFO in Southcentral Virginia. Except their's wasn't saucer shaped. From: http://www.ufoevidence.org/photographs/section/1960s/Photo305.htm

Classic flying saucer image from the Rex Heflin Orange County case in Southern California, 3 August 1965, the same general time period the Bass Family encountered a UFO in Southcentral Virginia. Except their’s wasn’t saucer shaped. From: http://www.ufoevidence.org/photographs/section/1960s/Photo305.htm.

My entire family of origin had a vivid UFO experience back in the mid to late 1960s. The event was exciting, even amazing, and also at moments terrifying. For years afterwards this encounter affected my family and me in unexpected ways such as the odd actions of the FBI and weird behavior among certain people involved with this incident including myself. Ever since then I’ve had a deep, personal interest in so-called “Unidentified Flying Objects” and the controversies UFOs generated.

Despite some apprehension I feel it’s time to tell my story and some of what I’ve discovered since then. My story is long overdue, too. As I stand for transparency and full disclosure, I feel strongly We the People of Earth need to know the full truth whether or not others feel we can “handle it.” Indeed, I stand for full and immediate disclosure of all information from all organizations and institutions regarding UFOs and the immense complexity of what’s alleged to have gone on in some cases for millions of years and what goes on in our current timeframe.

The list of what so many credible whistleblowers are claiming is long, overwhelming, unexpected, and goes far beyond flying saucers, galactic empires, free energy, and underground bases. They include numerous species of ETs/ESs/EDs/IDs (extraterrestrials, extrasolarials, extradimensionals, and inter- or intra-dimensionals), Majestic 12 and other hypercompartmentalized units within Earth nation-state regimes, various breakaway civilizations, ancient even prehistoric ET and human civilizations with ruins throughout the Sol System, the Secret Space Programs (SSPs), the Inner Earth civilizations, secret societies, the German role, the Cabal/Illuminati/Elitist crime syndicates and factions, black budget ops and other USAPs or Unacknowledged Special Access Programs, advanced and hidden technologies and scientific discoveries, global economic and financial manipulation and fraud on unprecedented scales, debunking and disinformation campaigns, grotesque medical and genetic experiments on many lifeforms including Earth humans, widespread human trafficking and slavery, Solarian bases, possibilities for a Star Trek-style civilization, exopolitical ramifications, orbs and plasma life forms, an apparently extreme intergalactic A.I. or Artificial Intelligence menace more omnicidal than nuclear weapons, new understandings about the nature and possibilities of consciousness, and considerations regarding densities versus dimensions and biological evolution with spiritual ascension.

The lines between so-called academic research, mainstream mass media, alternative media, and so-called conspiracy theory first dissolve into murkiness before becoming clearer. Everything one thinks they think they know regarding consciousness, compassion, health, money, politics, religion, spirituality, war, genetics, science, energy, love, relationships, and the definition of life may well be turned upside down and inside out. No, shall be. Let’s return, however, to where and how my involvement in this labyrinthine entanglement began and back to what occurred.

Our family UFO encounter happened on a warm late afternoon after I was home from grade school following a long ride on a yellow school bus. It was dinner time. I think it was early Autumn, although it could have been Spring. I sat around the dinner table with my younger siblings. They were my sister Beth and brother Joe. Our mother bustled about in the kitchen. Our kitchen was a big farmhouse kind of kitchen, and the dinner table was pragmatically placed there off to one side of the room. Dorothy Ussery Bass was my Mama’s real name, but most people who knew her called her Dot. It feels strange to me the actual events of almost four decades ago were so dramatic I remember them in great detail but, alas, I can’t recall whether it was Spring or Fall.

We had a table full of food, however, a big family dinner farmer-style. We kids began to shove food into our mouths, which annoyed Mama. My Dad, William M. Bass, known as Bill, was away where he worked up the hill at “the Barn.” As the large cow barn with the enormous hayloft dominated the center of our dairy farm as some Medieval Great Hall, we simply called it “the Barn.” The rest of the farm’s buildings circled around the hill and ridge. The family business had long been named Riverview Dairy Farm from the proximity of Big and Little Sandy Rivers as they looped around the estate. We were in the Rice – Sandy River – Green Bay belt of northeastern Prince Edward County. This area’s in turn is located in Southside Virginia, i.e. Virginia south of the James River, in the Piedmont of rolling hills, woods, ravines, and cultivated fields.

Mama was mad because we’d started chowing down before we said the Blessing. Dad wasn’t expected home until later. As we munched down into our dinner, we heard an unexpected ruckus. Daddy burst through the back door into the house.

“Come quick!” he shouted. “There’s a flying saucer out back!”

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Boomerang Tree

Once upon a time when I was a brave and crazy fool I rode a tree like a dragon. Armed with a homemade boomerang, I was a pretty young lad somewhere in that transition between preteen to true teen. My exact age and even what grade I was in remain lost to memory. What I do remember is a gusty, late afternoon storm with cloudy skies churning the color of dark green moss. It happened in Virginia where I grew up on a farm, and I thought I was gonna die.

I felt proud of my boomerang. I’ve spent hours carving and sanding it from a piece of wood. When I whipped it through the air across the cow pastures on my parents’ dairy farm, my boomerang actually returned. It would spin away from me whirling like a helicopter propeller. As my boomerang spun it rose high and higher still, turned, and came zooming back to me. Sometimes it flopped and dug into grass and dirt and skittered off rocks. At other times, however, I had to duck as it zipped over my head. I dared not reach out to grab it. Those were the best!

My buddy Jerry Vernon and I were out in a huge cowpasture on the Gates Family Farm. Jerry’s dad worked for the Gateses milking cows and fixing fences, so we played a lot. My brother Joe, six years younger, also hung with us that day. Our dad ran the Bass farm for his uncle, who was cousins with the Gateses and further down the road the Bruces.

It was one afternoon after school, and I can’t remember if it was November or March. The weather felt heavy with a cloudy-late-afternoon-right-before-supper-time feel, and we had one eye out for bulls. Rumor had it the Gateses had turned loose a bull into the pasture to impregnate the cows, and he would snort, charge, stomp, and gore you all to bloody pieces if he discovered you simply existed. We were terrified of bulls.

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